Just got back on Nov 18th from spending a week in San Pedro. This was our first visit to Belize and listed below are some of our observations.
We dove with Gaz Coopers and the staff was excellent. They are a very small dive shop but Lucy and Carlos were tremendous. The service was very personal and they always ensured our needs were addressed. Lucy met us the moment we arrived and took care of us until the moment we left. Carlos was our dive master and he was very good and knew the dive sites very well. Only met Gaz himself once but his staff were tremendous. They have small boats that hold 8 divers but they charter a larger 40 ft boat for the blue hole dive. I strongly recommend doing this trip. The trip consists of three dives, the first being the blue hole which is an 8 minute 130 ft dive. This dive would not be that great except its the blue hole and there are lots of large reef sharks swimming around which is pretty exciting. Saw at least a dozen circling us on this dive. Then there are two wall dives which were amazing. This is what diving in Belize is all about. The trip also includes a visit to a bird sanctuary for lunch and to provide something to do for the surface time. The boat they chartered was much faster as we past several boats from Aqua Divers (the boat ride is @ 2 hours each way). Also the Aqua Divers boats did not have a roof which would can be difficult since the trip is all day long. I saw a lot of very sunburnt people on that boat. Diving in general is good and saw turtles, eels, barracudas, large groupers, nurse sharks, eagle rays, etc. The coral can vary dramatically between the different dive sites and I think this is because some of the sites were damaged from Hurricane Mitch. The best diving is near the islands by the Blue Hole. Those dives were some of the best I have ever been on.
Gaz offers a package that includes diving, accomadations, island transfers for 599.00 USD. //www.ambergriscaye.com/divebelize/index.html
We stayed at the Paradise Villas which turns out to be among the top places to stay in San Pedro. Belize Yacht Club offers almost identical facilities. You get a condo with a kitchen and living room. I would recommend a place in San Pedro since the golf carts cost @ $60USD a day. Staying out of San Pedro would require a golf cart. Ramon's and Paradise Resort (not to be confused with Paradise Villas) offers grass huts. We met a couple that stayed at the Paradise Resort and they only stayed one night because they were eating alive by sand fleas. I have never seen so many bites on a person. It looked like he had chicken pox. I saw a lot of posts about Mayan Princess and the main thing they lacked was a pool. This is important since the beach swimming is limited by the sea grass and boats.
The beaches are not that great in San Pedro and I did not see hardly anybody use them as conventional beaches. Most people just walked on them to get around town. The snorkeling off the beach or the docks are limited because of boat traffic and lots of sea grass that grow on the bottom.
We found a lack of fresh produce and a lot of the stuff in the stores are very old. Make sure to check the expiration dates.
Restaurants were just ok and still fairly pricey considering its location. We ate at almost every main restaurant in San Pedro and the prices almost always worked out to @ $20-25 USD per person. Our favorites were:
Jambels - Lots of great spicy food
Celis - Good seafood & great service
Lots of people lost everything and are still staying in temp locations. The people are really nice and I encourage everyone to tip well. Most of San Pedro is functional and the main thing that we missed was the lack of fresh produce. We even got cable restored while we were there.
Overall it was an excellent vacation and we will go back. I went with a group of 8 friends and it does take getting used to. I think everyone was in a bit of culture shock when we first arrived because it is not touristy at all. This is still a developing country and it took a little getting used to. However the people were extremely nice and the town of San Pedro is safe and very pleasant. I strongly recommend it but just set your expectations accordingly. There are no paved roads, chain restaurants, or mainstream hotels here.